Samantha Sorrenti's business is finding things. But her newestand youngestclient just hired her to find something a lot more complicated: the father he's never known. And time's running out.
Forced to accept help from her sister, an FBI agent, Sam tracks down Chase Sullivan. But Chase is concealing a secret he's determined to keep Sam and her sister from exposing. And Sam's as determined to reunite the father with the son who needs him so desperately.
If Sam could only help Chase become the parent he was meant to be In return, maybe he could help her learn to trustand loveagain.
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"I find things, not people," Samantha Sorrenti repeated. "Things like rare books or antique coins. Art objects. Once I even had to search for an original Winnie the Pooh Teddy Bear." She grinned, hoping to lighten the mood. His brown eyes didn't flicker. Sam sighed. "What you want is a private investigator. Did you check the Yellow Pages?"
"Your Web site says you find anything."
"Anything. Not anyone."
"It didn't say you just look for stuff like old books."
"I'm sorry, but I really can't help you. My advice is to check out an agency."
He stared at her for a long, painful moment. Then he pushed his chair back and got to his feet so abruptly that it toppled over. The clatter echoed in the small room. When he reached the doorway, he turned around.
"I can't afford a private detective. Your ad says you don't charge anything unless you find it."
It! she felt like shouting. "Why the urgency? I mean, you could probably find him through the Internet yourself."
His face darkened. "I don't have time for that."
"But it might take only a few weeks and it's free. How can you lose?"
He took a step toward the desk. "How could I lose?" His voice cracked.
He was going to cry!
"You just don't get it. I need to find him because because my mother is going to be dead in six weeks. Maybe less." He wheeled around.
Sam swallowed. "Wait," she said.
He stopped, turning slowly back to her. His eyes and nose were red.
"Maybe I can do something," she murmured.
He stared as if he hadn't heard right.
Sam pointed to the toppled-over chair. "Sit," she said quietly, trying not to sound as exasperated as she felt. After all, he was only twelve years old.
He didn't rush back to the chair, but shuffled instead, in that awkward walk of boys wearing ridiculously baggy pants. He slowly righted the chair and sat on it, slouching.
Sam knew this nonchalance was an attempt at face-saving, but it still rankled. He could at least pretend to be appreciative. "Look, I'm expecting an important call, so I can't be long, but uh I know someone who may be able to help." Sam stopped. Did she really want to take that step? She looked at the light in his eyes and her heart sank. She had to take it now. "Someone in the FBI."
"The FBI?" It came out as a croak.
"Do you have a problem with that?"
"No, but this is going to be just between us, right?"
"Are you talking about confidentiality?"
"Yeah. That's what I mean."
"I think you've got me confused with a lawyer. As I said, I'm not even a private investigator. I look for"
"Yeah, you told me. Things. Not people."
Sam felt her blood pressure rise. "Do you want me to get you some help or not?"
She saw him flinch, but didn't regret her harsh tone. He might be only twelve, but he'd managed to barge into her office all on his own.
"Yes, I do. It's just that you mentioning the FBI it sounds serious."
More serious than you can imagine. "Okay," she said, reaching for her notepad. "Why don't you tell me your story and I'll make some notes? Then I'll get back to you."
"I don't know. As soon as I can."
He chewed on his lower lip for a few seconds, then began. When he finished, less than ten minutes later, Sam didn't trust herself to look his way. She stared at her notes, the words blurred by tears. She sniffed, blinked twice and finally raised her head.
His eyes met hers, and Sam thought she caught a glimmer of satisfaction in them. He knows I'm hooked.
She cleared her throat. "Okay, so let me review this. Your mother has had no contact with your father since you were born."
"Since before I was born. She says he never knew about me."
"But she never tried to contact him, to tell him about you?"
He shrugged. "I dunno. She always told me he never knew. I think he moved to another city, anyway."
"Maybe your mother can fill in some of these gaps."
"Why do you have to see my mother? Can't this be just between us?"
"Does your mother know you came to see me?"
He looked away.
"She doesn't, does she?"
"She has enough problems."
Sam had no reply to that. He was right of course. "The thing is, you're a minor. I can't legally help you without your mother's consent."
His eyes flicked coolly back to hers. "But you're not a real private detective, anyway."
And you're no typical twelve-year-old. "I can't do anything for you without your mother's knowledge. Anyway, you told me she was the one who suggested finding your father."
"What do you mean, kinda?" Sam's voice rose.
His gaze dropped to his hands, interlocked in his lap. "When she first found out about the cancer, she said it was too bad my father didn't know me."
Sam felt as if she'd just plunged her other foot into quicksand. "Well, I'd have to talk to her if you want me to help," she eventually said.
"Okay, okay." His eyes met hers again. "But don't upset her. Please? She already feels bad because she knows I'll have to go into foster care after well, after."
He didn't need to clarify. "I won't upset her, Danny, I promise. But she needs to know. Can you tell me anything at all about your father?"
"His name is Danny, too. I think my mom forgot his last name."
Or never knew it. Sam was beginning to wonder if Danny was the product of a one-night stand. Which meant the task she'd taken on would be impossible. "Anything else?"
His face brightened. "He liked motorcycles. My mom said he had a real cool tattoo on his right arm and long hair, like a rock star."
"Oh," was all Sam could think to say. The picture forming in her mind wasn't exactly a poster for fatherhood. "So Benson is your mother's name?"
"Yeah. Emily Benson." He craned his neck, looking at something behind her.
The clock, Sam realized. "You have to go soon?"
"Yeah. I told Minnie I'd be back about five and I gotta take a couple of buses."
"Our next-door neighbor. I've been staying with her for the last two weeks."
"She's in the hospital."
"Oh. Is she having surgery or something?"
He shook his head. "Nope. All that's finished. Now she's just waiting. In I can't remember the name for it. A special room in the hospital."
"Yeah. That's it. Mom calls it the Waiting Room. She jokes about it. You know, how hospitals are always making you wait for something. She says she even has to wait to die." His voice cracked again and he turned his head toward the bookshelves at his right.
Silence shrink-wrapped the room. Sam badly wanted a glass of water. No. Make that a double of any alcoholic drink available. Unfortunately none was.
Finally he said, "Minnie says I can stay with her for now but well, she's old, you know." He looked back at Sam. His eyes were red-rimmed. "She's living on a small pension and can't take care of me for too long."
Sam cleared her throat. "I'll need her telephone number."
Danny complied, then said, "She's in the apartment across the hall from ours, so I can go back and forth, take care of Mom's plants and stuff." He got to his feet. "So uh, when should I call you?"
Sam knew she was sinking fast and there was no way out. Maybe a couple of phone calls would convince him she couldn't do much more. "Like I said, I have to, uh, talk to someone who may be able to help and then I'll get back to you."
"Will that take long?"
She felt her face heat. He was persistent. Not one to be put off by lame excuses. "I'll do my best, Danny."
His eyes held hers for a long moment, then he turned abruptly and walked out the door. Sam dropped her forehead into her hands. What have you done now, Sorrenti?
"Are you serious? What in heaven's name possessed you, Samantha?"
There had been a time in Sam's teen years when she'd answer a question like that with a flippant quip. But she and her mother had finally managed to establish what they euphemistically called a "working relationship" so Sam wasn't even tempted to play the smart-ass, as her mother used to say. She regretted, however, bringing up the afternoon visit from Danny Benson during her weekly tea and chat with her mother.
"Mom, he's twelve years old and his mother is dying. He has no other relatives and well he almost started to cry right there in my office. What could I do?"
Nina Sorrenti set the teapot back onto the tray and handed Sam her cup and saucer. "You could have pointed him toward the many agencies available to help children in his situation."
"I know, I know," Sam muttered. "I'm a sucker for a sob story."
"I didn't say that, darling."
"But I am, I admit it. He just looked at me with his big brown eyes and I remembered" She broke off.
"How you felt when you were his age? When your father walked out on us?"
Sam took a long sip of tea before replying. "Mother, I'm not in one of your therapy sessions. Maybe we should just drop the subject and talk about what I really came here foryour upcoming sixtieth. "
Nina waved an index finger at Sam. "Darling, you're not going to persuade me to have a big party. I refuse to acknowledge this particular birthday."
Sam stared at her mother ensconced in the easychair across from her, one sleek leg gracefully draped over the other. She was wearing a knee-length straight skirt and tailored shirt, which highlighted her slender but shapely figure. In spite of the streaks of gray in her short hair, Nina had the face and skin of a much younger woman.
Nina went on, smiling, "Besides, you're not getting out of this so easily. I'm just pointing out something that must be obvious to you."
Sam knew the subject wasn't going to be dropped. She sighed. "What I think is that you're purposely overlooking the blatant differences between Danny's situation and mine. You're doing the psychologist thing with me and I don't like it."
"And you're still evading my question."
"Not evading so much as putting it into perspective. Of course I can relate to his problem, because I understand what it is not to have a father-figure in my life. But he never knew his father, whereas Skye and I were"
Sam shrugged. "If you want to use that word, go ahead." She put her cup and saucer back on the table and sneaked a peak at her watch.
"Now who's playing therapist?"
"For heaven's sake, Mother!"
Nina laughed. "Okay, I'll give it a rest. But"
Sam held up a palm. "Say no more. Session ended. So, tell me what's new in your life?"
Nina leaned forward to set her cup and saucer down, then smoothed her skirt as she sat back in the chair. She seemed to be taking her time to answer, Sam thought.
"Mmm, not too much, dear. I've been asked to speak at a conference next month."
"Great. Where's the conference? Anyplace exciting?"
Nina smiled. "Just here in good old Seattle. That's why I accepted. I'm not up to traveling all over the country anymore for these things. Same old, same old, as the expression goes."
"You used to love to travel."
"I know, but I don't feel the urge now. I'm all for curling up in front of a fire with a good book."
Sam laughed. "Yeah, right, Mom. Funny how I can't picture you doing that." She studied her mother for a moment, trying to see her objectively. An attractive woman, an accomplished clinical psychologist and still working at it daily.
"You're not really that upset about turning sixty, are you?"
"No, dear, not really. Though I admit it's given me much more pause than turning fifty did. But I'm hoping to make some time for myself now. I've decided to whittle down the size of my practiceI'm not taking any new patients."
Sam mulled that over. Nina had always been driven by her love for her career and her love for her children. She couldn't imagine her slowing down. But then, she also couldn't imagine her getting any older. For a long moment Sam couldn't speak.
"Well, Mom, don't think that this means we won't be celebrating your birthday," she tried again.
Nina raised an eyebrow. "I wonder where you get that stubbornness from?"
"It's genetic, I believe." Sam stood up. "What do I owe you for the consultation?"
"How about a kiss?"
Their eyes locked and they both smiled. Sam leaned down to kiss her mother.
"Will you come for dinner next Monday, rather than tea, and tell me more about Danny?"
"I'd love to come for dinner. I'm sure by then Danny will have realized I can't help him."
"Maybe your sister can be of assistance."
"How?" she asked, though Skye had automatically came to mind when she'd been talking to Danny.
"Isn't that her field? Doesn't the FBI handle missing-persons cases?"
"This man isn't really missing. I'm assuming whatever relationship he'd had with Danny's mother simply ended and he left town, not knowing he'd fathered a child."
"Skye might be able to steer you in the right direction or give you some advice."
Sam made a face.
"What's that for?" her mother asked.
"Nothing. I thought I might call Skye, but I'm sure she's far too busy for something like this. Besides, I have to talk to Danny's mother first. She may have a problem with him searching for his father."
"Well, of course you have to do that." Nina paused. "When was the last time you spoke to your sister?"
"Christmas." Sam leaned against one of the French doors separating the living room from the hallway and knew what was coming.
"Samantha, that was five months ago. What's happened between you two, anyway?"
"Nothing, Mother. You're reading too much into it. She lives in another part of the country."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Tweener Danny visits artifact sleuth Samantha Sorrenti to hire her to find the father he never met. She keeps telling him she does not look for people, but his sadness hooks her when he explains his mom is in the hospital dying from cancer. She visits her almost sixty year old mom the therapist who points out to her that she is out of her league and probably doing this because her dad walked out on his three women when Sam was Danny¿s age.---------------- With the help of her FBI sister Skye, Sam locates Danny¿s biological father while miraculously the child¿s mom remains alive a bit longer than predicted. Chase Sullivan is stunned to learn he sired a son and wants to meet his child and take over raising him. As Sam and Chase fall in love, Danny¿s avaricious relatives do not want a father interfering with the spending of Danny¿s inheritance even if that means abduction and perhaps something more lethal.----------------- Readers will feel like Sam when Danny trying to hold back tears explains his mom¿s theory on hospitals is patients need patience as you are always waiting even to die. Fans and Sam are hooked and Danny knows it. Readers will enjoy this engaging romantic suspense and it also appears Janice Carter is cooking up a sequel for Skye.------------- Harriet Klausner